§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether it is within his recollection that a pledge was given by him to the House on 15th August last that, if the hon. Member for Flintshire would withdraw his Motion for an inquiry into the condition of the people of India, the right hon. Gentleman would undertake, on the part of the Government, that, at the very commencement of the present Session, they would propose the appointment of a Select Committee which would inquire into the financial expenditure of the Indian revenues, both in England and in India, and also a pledge that it would be open to any Member of the House, when the Motion for the appointment of the Committee was made, to submit any Amendment he thought necessary in regard to the terms of the reference to be made to such Committee; and whether, with a view to implement these pledges, Her Majesty's Government will give an opportunity to Members of this House to discuss the terms of the reference to the Royal Commission which has been appointed as a substitute for the Select Committee originally offered to the House by the Government on 15th August last?
§ MR. HENRY FOWLER
It is quite true that in August last I did promise an inquiry into the expenditure of the Indian revenues, both in England and in India, and, as I intimated then, I thought that such an inquiry should be conducted through the instrumentality of a Parliamentary Committee. I also stated—but I gave no pledge—that, of course any hon. Member could move an 1166 Amendment upon any Motion made in this House. But in the Debate upon the Address this Session the whole question was discussed again, and I then explained to the House the objection that had been raised to the constitution of a Parliamentary Committee to deal with this subject—namely, that such a Committee would be confined to Members of Parliament, and that other gentlemen who were specially qualified to deal with the question, who were in fact experts, would be excluded. Another objection taken was that, in the not improbable contingency of an early Dissolution of Parliament, a Parliamentary Committee would come to an end, and its labours would be rendered futile. Therefore I stated that it was desirable to conduct the inquiry by Royal Commission, and I gathered that the view which I then took was endorsed by the general sense of the House. My colleagues and myself, therefore, came to the conclusion that a Royal Commission would be the best mode of inquiry, and yesterday the names appeared in the newspapers of those gentlemen whom Her Majesty has been pleased to approve of as constituting that Commission. I have endeavoured to constitute the Commission as fairly and impartially as possible, and every section of opinion interested in Indian finance is represented upon it. It is not in harmony with the usual practice of this House to discuss the terms of the reference to a Royal Commission.